With Russia lining up tanks, artillery and troops along Ukraine’s border, it has revived Cold War levels of gamesmanship and brinksmanship that could lead to direct military conflict. Yet few experts think a full-blown confrontation with Russia is inevitable or even desirable, and the United States does not need to act alone if it does not want to.
The US has the most powerful conventional military in the world, according to the website Global Firepower, with far more bases, fighter jets and bombers than Russia. It also has far more submarines, destroyers and aircraft carriers. And its military spending is more than double that of Russia’s, at 612 billion vs. 77 billion.
A direct military clash with Russia would be hard, difficult and costly for the US. But the United States has a number of tools at its disposal to respond to Russian aggression, including economic sanctions, targeting oligarchs, political elites, government-owned enterprises and Russian President Vladimir Putin himself. It has also assembled a worldwide coalition of countries to provide equipment and supplies to Ukrainian forces.
Polls show that Americans are broadly supportive of the NATO alliance, with support rising with age, Democratic party affiliation and the view that it’s best for the U.S. to be active in world affairs. However, the public’s unfavorable opinions of Russia are holding steady or growing. Those opinions may help explain why many Western leaders do not want to engage with Putin directly.